The Boomer Exodus: A Workforce Wave Set to Rattle Canada

by Dr. Jasneet Bedi

As the last of the baby boomer generation prepares to celebrate their 65th birthdays in 2030, Canada is on the brink of a seismic demographic shift that will redefine its workforce dynamics. With a significant portion of this generation set to retire, the labor market is bracing for the departure of experienced professionals, leaving behind a void that may prove challenging to fill.

What makes this even more challenging is findings from research conducted by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Conference Board of Canada which reveals that a growing number of immigrants are leaving Canada in search of better opportunities abroad. This phenomenon has serious implications for a nation that relies heavily on immigration to drive its prosperity. [read more here]

Rafael Gomez, a seasoned researcher and the director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, emphasizes the imminent loss of a wealth of experience and wisdom as boomers exit the workforce. This, he suggests, could upset the delicate balance in the labor market, particularly in industries already grappling with significant job vacancies.

At present, millennials constitute one-third of the Canadian workforce, closely followed by Gen Xers at 29.5 percent, and Gen Z at 17.6 percent. However, the promotion bypassing of Gen Xers, coupled with their numerical inferiority to younger generations, raises concerns about their ability to entirely fill the gap left by retiring boomers.

Industries such as food services, health care, social services, and construction are already experiencing a shortage of skilled professionals, with around 700,000 jobs remaining unfilled across the country. The construction industry alone is grappling with approximately 61,000 vacancies, a number expected to skyrocket as an estimated 245,000 retirements loom by 2032.

Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association, underscores the urgent need for recruitment, with the industry facing a shortfall of 5,000 workers immediately and an additional 66,000 roles in the near future. The skilled trades sector is not exempt from this predicament, with an anticipated 700,000 retirements by 2028, demanding an annual intake of 75,000 new apprentices to meet the demand for skilled journeypersons.

However, Van Buren points out a critical challenge – the perception of skilled trades. The societal bias towards university education over skilled trades, coupled with the reduction of shop classes in high schools, has contributed to a lack of interest in these essential roles.

The exodus of baby boomers also presents a unique challenge beyond job vacancies – a potential imbalance between experience and technical innovation. Younger generations bring fresh perspectives on emerging technologies, while their older counterparts possess invaluable institutional memory and a keen ability to predict the potential failure of new ideas.

According to Mr. Gomez, maintaining this delicate balance is crucial for organizational success. Larger, established companies may feel the impact more acutely due to their reliance on senior leadership roles, while startups and newer enterprises may be more adaptable, hiring individuals already familiar with the latest technologies.

Dr. Jasneet Bedi

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